I am sure you have heard most if not all of these breastfeeding myths. The sad part is, we hear all of these and we are set up for failure before we even start to breastfeed. With that being said, I have decided to tell you the truth about each of the myths you have most likely heard.
- Some women don’t produce enough milk. Overabundance of milk is a more common problem. If a baby is not gaining weight there are many possible reasons. If the problem is because the baby is not getting enough milk, it is most likely because the baby is not latched on properly and is not getting all the milk mom is producing. This is why it is important to evaluate the latch early on, usually within the first 24 hours.
- Breastfeeding comes natural. Breastfeeding may be the natural way to feed your baby, but it most certainly does not come naturally for every mom/baby couple. You may have an easy time breastfeeding one baby and the next may be difficult, or vice versa. Breastfeeding takes work and you have to learn what is comfortable for you and your baby.
- It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt. Some tenderness in the first few days is perfectly normal, but it should go away. The pain should not be so bad that the mother dreads breastfeeding her baby (as was the case with me). If the pain is this bad it is usually because of a latch problem.
- The baby should be on the breast for “x” amount of minutes, on each side. This is wrong in so many ways. You should not time the baby when she is eating. Let her eat until she completely empties the breast, then offer the second breast. If she is still hungry, she will take the second breast. If she is full after the first breast, she will not take the second breast, and that is perfectly fine.
- A breastfed baby needs extra water in the summer. No baby needs any additional fluids, it does not matter if they are breastfed or bottle fed.
- A mother should wash her nipples before every feeding. This just adds a step to breastfeeding and makes it more complicated. It also washes away protective oils.
- Pumping is a good way to tell how much milk the mother has. This may tell you how much is in your breast at that particular time, but your body adjusts and makes milk as the baby needs it. Also, how much milk you can get while pumping depends on how relaxed you are as well.
- It is easier to bottle feed than to breastfeed. This shouldn’t be true, but what makes this true is the fact that mothers are not given the support they need. Breastfeeding can be easier because there is no need to pack formula and bottles when you go somewhere. If you are with the baby, you have food.
- There is no way to measure how much milk the baby is getting. While it is true that you can not determine exactly how much milk the baby is getting every feeding, there are several ways to tell if the baby is getting enough milk. If the baby is making wet and dirty diapers, seems full after feeding, and is gaining weight appropriately, then she is getting plenty of milk.
- Formula is the same as breastmilk. Although companies are trying harder and harder to mimic breast milk, it just cannot be done. If you choose not to breastfeed though, rest assured that the formula will give your baby everything she needs and is a perfectly fine alternative.
- If mom has an infection she should stop breastfeeding. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part it is perfectly fine for you to breastfeed your baby if you have an infection and may even protect your baby from a similar infection.
- If mom is on medication she should not breastfeed. Again, there are exceptions, but if you tell your doctor you are breastfeeding he or she will make sure to give you a medication that is safe for breastfeeding.
- If the baby is vomiting or has diarrhea, mom should stop breastfeeding. Again, the opposite is true. Breastfeeding is very good for a baby’s stomach infection and can help her recover quicker. If, however, she is vomiting everything up and not making wet diapers, you should see the doctor because replacement fluids may be required.
- You have to watch what you eat while breastfeeding. While this is sometimes true, initially you do not have to watch what you are eating. You may notice that your baby has different reactions after you eat certain foods, and in those cases you should avoid that food. Otherwise, you can eat what you normally eat.
- Mom has to eat more to make enough milk. As long as a breastfeeding mother is eating enough calories to sustain herself she can make enough milk. Even moms on low-calorie diets typically make enough milk. You should eat according to your appetite, this will ensure you are eating enough.
- Mom has to drink more to make enough milk. You should drink according to your thirst, this will ensure you are getting enough fluids. Some moms claim to be more thirsty when they are breastfeeding, others don’t feel more thirsty than normal.
- A mom shouldn’t drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Moms can drink alcohol as long as it is in moderation. Generally, the rule of thumb is to drink one glass of wine right after feeding the baby, then the next time you are ready to feed her the alcohol will be out of your system.
- If a mom had had breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery she cannot breastfeed. Sometimes if the surgery has been done through the areola it can make it difficult, but for the most part, neither of these surgeries cause any issues.
- Women with small breasts produce less milk than women with larger breast. This is just crazy talk, but I once thought this was true. I used to joke that my child would starve because I wouldn’t make enough. After attempting to breastfeed, I had an overabundance of breast milk, and I have small breasts, so I am proof this is a myth.
- There is no such thing as nipple confusion. Again, I am proof that this is a myth. Some babies do just fine, but other babies do not. My daughter was given a pacifier with sugar water in the nursery while we were in the hospital, and this was the start of our problems. Then, when I was too sore, I tried pumping and giving it to her in a bottle. After 2 days of this, I felt that I might be able to tolerate breastfeeding again, but she wouldn’t latch. This is when I decided to give up completely because pumping was just too much for me, as I was pumping every time she was eating. (I hadn’t built up a supply yet.)
- Breast is Best. This is the slogan to encourage moms to breastfeed and I have so many issues with this. Breast is not always best. I understand the idea, because breast milk is specially designed for human babies and is the best form of nutrition for babies, but it is not always what is best. What is best for the baby is what is best for the mom and family. This is a whole post on it’s own and you can read my points in my post “Are We Pushing Breast is Best Too Much“.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of all the breastfeeding myths out there. There are infinitely more and this post could easily turn into 4 posts, but I don’t want to bore you with all of them. These are just the most common ones I hear as a nurse and as a mom who tried to breastfeed.
What breastfeeding myths have you heard? Have you heard any different ones than the ones I listed?